On the Cliff Walk
at Newport, Rhode Island, Thinking of Percy Bysshe Shelley
The house of stone
turns its back on town
to govern an Atlantic even sky can’t stop.
Big as a museum, it keeps us off the lawn
with chain-link fences camouflaged by rosehips.
Presiding from this height it says Look on
my works, ye Mighty, and despair! I do,
counting forty windows, six French doors,
a dozen chimneys. Gone, the men who
ushered progress here, those individuals,
who breakfasted on the green, debating wars
their women wouldn’t understand. Farewell.
The waves still fling their ermine to the land,
refine the rocks colliding in their pull—
a loud applause that steadily makes sand.
Simmons Oles has published six books of poems, including Sympathetic
Systems and The Deed. She teaches at California State University in
Chico, where she has directed the Creative Writing program. Recent
work appears in Painted Bride Quarterly, Family Reunion: Poems About
Parenting Grown Children, and Field, and is forthcoming in The Women's
Review of Books.